By Tatyana Wolfman
Obsessively crafted circles are the central motif to Karen Margolis’ work. The circle, sacred to many, is riddled with symbolic meaning. In Chinese gai tain cosmology, the circle is noted as the most perfect geometric shape and, accordingly, represents the heavens above the square earth. In Native American tradition, the medicine wheel is a symbol of life, perfection, and infinites. Even hip-hop super-group Wu-Tang Clan, 5 Percenters, praise the purity of the circle. “As God Cypher Divine, all minds one, no question,” Masta Killa recites in Visionz. In hip-hop culture, the cypher refers to freestyle rap, where interrupting another man will break the cycle. According to the 5 Percenters and their supreme mathematics, zero (or the cipher) is the completion of a circle: 360 degrees of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
It’s easy to see how Margolis finds boundless inspiration and energy from the round wonder. Margolis repetitively creates the shape to map out the inner dialogues of the mind. Influenced by her psychology background, she is determined to show audiences how our minds work with her art.
Rooms: Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
What drives me as an artist is trying to find out who I am. I feel like I exist in a fluid state within the world around me, absorbing certainties of others with no absolutes of my own. I spend a lot of time studying people's behavior and writing about it. I'm influenced by Diane Arbus' observation of "the gap between what you want people to know about you and what you can't help people knowing about you". Her work made me hyper-aware of the unconscious signals we all send out and compelled me to look below the surfaces of others as well as myself, to see the reality; so, I am focused on trying to reconcile the inner and outer me.
Rooms: Your original field of study was in psychology. Does this come to play in your artwork?
Very much so. As a child I had a lot of phobias and had become somewhat obsessed with the idea that there is another sort of energy inside of me that I could not articulate. I had seen a movie called "Forbidden Planet" that featured invisible creatures from the id and that really got my attention. After that, I found some books in the library on the inner workings of the mind and psychology became a lifelong fascination for me. In college, I focused on the brain and Experimental Psychology, which dealt with processes that underlie behavior. I didn't know what I wanted to do with psychology and ultimately dropped out of Grad School. My route has been rather circuitous, but as an artist, I wanted my work to be about mental operations, to somehow capture the mechanics of the mind. Also, it couldn't be personal and had to be about the universal. I used myself as a subject because it was easier. As an avid diarist with over 20 years of journal entries and detailed narratives of my dreams, I thought that they might be good material to begin with and created a system to chart and encode my interior monologues by translating them into colored fields of dots. These compositions on paper are visual diaries, encoded interior monologues. Working from my journals, I translate feelings into colored dots. My rules are rather loose and, depending on the writings, I use one day or a week that I transcribe into colors. I simultaneously divulge and conceal my intimate feelings.
Rooms: The circle is evidently a key component to your work. It represents the molecule, a neurotransmitter and an Enso (the sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism). The circle brings science and spirituality together in your art. Is this how you manifest all your identities and roles at once?
I look for the connective tissue between the universe and the microscopic. I have found it in the circle. It relates everything. As the most basic component in the universe, the circle can be found in all of nature as well as in religious symbols, like a halo or the Sephirot in the Kabbalah. I practice Zen Buddhism and became interested in the Enso because it represents infinity, perfection, and totality. Layering my metaphysical beliefs with chemical reactions in the brain became the basis of my work. This way I am able to reconcile the physical with the metaphysical
Rooms: Is the process of creating the circles a form of mediation, personal psychoanalysis, or trephining?
Creating circles is immensely satisfying. In meditation, you focus on your breaths and clarity somehow emerges; as thoughts pop into your head you can see that they are not real and eventually you are not held hostage by your beliefs. My process has evolved into a synthesis of meditation, stream of consciousness thinking in which I work through obsessive thoughts, and physical pain, particularly when I am burning, which I metaphorically relate to trephining. I first learned of trephination (drilling holes into people's heads) when I wrote a paper chronicling the treatment of mental illness, and the torture of it stuck with me. It was repulsive and compelling.
Rooms: You had a series where you created circles with maps. What meaning did the maps bring to your work?
I'm drawn to maps because they offer an implicit promise that they will help you find your way. In my work, the maps act as proxy for the physical self. Additionally, they frustrate expectations of any help navigating through the world. I use maps to explore arbitrary destruction and regeneration in the journey of life. After burning holes in maps, I layer them on top of each other; passages to new locations are created in places that have been lost. I invoke into my maps my philosophy that in loss something new and unexpected is found.
Rooms: Are the colors you use to represent emotions based on socialization and culture or personal instinct of how they would look?
I wanted to develop a standardized flow chart of emotions and worked with the Pantone Color System to designate a color to each emotion and coordinate families of emotions to color families (tints, saturated hues and shades). I knew from the start of this endeavor that I would not be able to have an intuitively based color chart, but, where possible, I used expected colors for emotions, like green for envy. The charts are a continual work in progress; I add new emotions to the chart as they come into my consciousness.
Rooms: By playing with the circle, you affect its perfection.
I am attracted to perfection but celebrate Wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy around the beauty of imperfection, aging, and deterioration. I don't think people would be very interesting without their paradoxes. I reconcile oppositions within my work, "without darkness, there can be no light".
Rooms: Your work seems extremely meticulous. Are you a perfectionist in all other aspects of your life?
I do immerse myself in details; it is just how I operate in the world, it’s not planned or thought out. That said, I am anything but a perfectionist. My mind is such a roiling sea of chaos that obsessive as I may be, nothing is perfect and all is a compromise.
By Tatyana Wolfman
Soot accumulating on old brick buildings, paint and other media discarded by graffiti artists are not typically emblems of a burgeoning creative spirit; rather, the reminders of waste. But, artist Julian Lorber has a peculiar eye: he is also drawn to polluted skies, automotive coats, and cosmetics products. Artifacts of an over consuming society. In Lorber’s current series, he uses archival tape to create defiled landscapes.
Rooms: What does light mean to your practice?
In the work that I’ve been involved with for the past three years, I’ve used light to bring out illusions and visual hierarchies in the painted pieces. The work is painted so that depending on the type of light and the direction of the source, the artwork can have the faux-natural light of a particular time of the day. Part of the inspiration of these paintings was looking at the soot built-up on the edges of bricks and other architecture under certain light and thinking to myself, ‘that would be an interesting way to paint.’
The tape marks and application of paint in your work create an impressionistic quality. Was this intentional?
Mostly yes, and I’ve been resistant to saying my artwork is entirely abstracted. My work is mostly landscape or something objective and I do paint for a certain type of light, in a range of colors that might seem fugitive, for example, when I paint the shadows or soot lines with bright mixed colors. Now that I’m really thinking about it, some of these fugitive color combinations have been something that digital cameras can’t seem to capture. This might alienate viewers that look at documentation of art on the web, but the impressionist colours and styles had the same effect on their audience. Of course, seeing my artwork in person is profoundly better. It’s always interesting when viewers assume they are digitally printed at first, because of my painting methods, and then realize they are physically textured and painted.
In your latest series, as featured in ROOMS 16 Superluminal, you build your canvas with archival tape prior to painting. Has building up your canvas always been a part of your process?
Not always. I used to layer using just the drawing and paint to create tension and dialogue between the layers, but still retaining a surface focus. I was interested in the drawing under the paintings and what was underneath the exteriors presented around us. I presented these artworks in a show called the Real Illusions in Painting but I really felt there was something physically missing that I wanted to include. So I started cutting and layering with different media and eventually used archival tape.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the layers you create?
The physical layers are my way of creating my own surface or creating my own architecture on the surface. Falling bricks, bandages, or just the act of covering up with tape allowed me to make statements about surface and make walls that I could paint on. The physical tape also allowed me to build up colours on the edges in the same way soot accumulates on bricks and other surfaces, which was something I was observing and thought was interesting.
Your work draws from graffiti, urban, and man-made spaces, but also retains colors from natural properties. Color is also restrained on each canvas.
I enjoy color sensuality and the way it elicits an emotional response from viewers. The concepts in my work about the environment complement this response and create the dialogue that I’m interested in having. The dialogue being that one is looking at something that can be considered attractive, like a sunset or layers of paint on architecture, but at the same time there are positive and negative externalities present or being presented.
You control substances in order to create architecture of pollution. Is environmentalism important to what you do?
I care enough about the environment that I’ve dedicated years, and much of my work so far, to conveying ideas through my artwork about the subject. I think it comes down to intentions. Although I’m using materials that are harmful to produce, the fact is almost everything is: if you take an object like a brick, which was a good idea and intention, it just depends on what you do with it, despite the fact that if you go back far enough, it was probably made from Saudi, American or Chinese oil. The point is how you use those resources and what your intentions are.
Does living in Brooklyn affect how you look at decay and progress?
To a degree, yes. I’ve titled the project I’ve been involved with for the past few years Externalities because it is from observing the positive and negative occurrences from progress. Brooklyn is very industry-heavy, but because of people living so close to it, you can see its effects quickly, and also see the proactive response from lawmakers and scientists. Seeing street or outdoor/public art leap forward due to popularity has been another interesting experience. With that said, seeing outside of my town helps to keep perspective and to add nuances to the story I’m trying to tell. I often look at LA, China, and now Houston.
What sci-fi story does your work tell?
It’s dark humor. A story that’s about living with, and relying on, a system that is harming us. We have to look at this story in a type of light which is beautiful, and that pleases us so we can focus, all while knowing, and denying the truth, that we are not only part of, but also responsible for, this coexistence.
Check out Julian Lorber’s work in our current issue ROOMS 16 Superluminal
By Nate Jixin Zhang
The Filmmaker Method
Lucy Luscombe's career is like cracking open a bottle of Moët et Chandon with the toughest cork, it felt stuck at first but once it's open, it just keeps gushing out in all her stormy glory, drenching her in a sea of projects that she comfortably swims though. Vogue, Channel 4, Nike and many other organizations are just a few of her high profile clients. Since the interview she's already released another music video for artist Juce! for her single “6th floor”, in which the banality of London lives of a few individuals are amplified and celebrated, in similar fashion to some of her other works including Tiny Ruins' video “Carriages” which features Channel 4 actor from “My Mad Fat Diary” Nico Mirallegro. The sentiment is very much reflexive in her works, it's invoked rather than shown or told. ROOMS exclusive interview with the 28-year-old Lucy Luscombe can be found in ROOMS 16 Superluminal
By Abigail Yue Wang
Photos by Alexandra Uhart
It’s that time of the year to join the festive reflections on togetherness. We here wouldn’t of course, resist revisiting the values of family when it’s novel and tantalising.
For ROOMS 16, we are welcomed to tap into the creative unity of The Fashtons – formed by husband-and-wife artists Ben Ashton and Fiona Garden. Ben being a figurative painter and installation artist, Fiona a music and fashion photographer: each is as adept in their own fields as in their collaboration.
I will always be drawn to the play of light on bone. The architecture of a face or body, as it stands, in light, whether made up or bare, discovered or intended, is what inspires me. It’s a constant wonder that in that interplay between light and shadow, I can capture the essence of a person – it’s an endless marvel.—Fiona Garden
I feel with every self-portrait I produce, I am constantly reminded of my own mortality and as a result I have become fixated upon the idea of legacy. I have plundered the history of painting, initially to teach myself to paint but after that I would always turn to the security of history to make my next decision.—Ben Ashton
For now, you can only read the eloquent and revealing exchange with Ben and Fiona in ROOMS 16, our hand-selected gift to you. And Merry Christmas for that matter.
ROOMS 16, out now
By Kristina Jensen
“This is how it all begins: from blinding darkness enters light; soft, beautiful, expanding, violent, maddening, defiant”.
ROOMS 16 is all about light, offering an explosion of colour, yet meditating the significance of contrast, of darkness. The darkness behind the light, which serves as a technical tool, an inception of creativity. Together with the artists who make up this issue we seek to illuminate what happens when we stop thinking of light and darkness as binaries, but rather as parts of the same force. The force that drives us to create, destroy and recreate. As featured photographer Ryan Harding points out, one must accept the necessity of scrapping things in order to reinvent. To improve. To excel.
Following this year’s Art Basel – Miami Beach, ROOMS 16 muses the creative processes and emotional influences of three Miami-based artists as Autumn Casey,
Farley Aguilar and Bhakti Baxter consider the impact of the Sun City on their work. While the works of contemporary artists often exist by an illusion of lighting and composition, the illusion is accepted as an ancient and indispensable artistic extrication. Further, a focus on light in composition is evident in Pawel Nolbert’s works as he discusses the effect colour has on perception and visual impact. We also talk “lighting” with award-winning photographer Jamie-James Medina, whose diverse portfolio includes dramatic and characterful portraits of Mercury-prize nominee FKA Twigs.
ROOMS 16 explores the realms of digital artistic expression, introducing the work of two extraordinary digital artists, Robert Bell and Andreas Nicolas Fischer. Their compositions are eruptions of light and yet contain within them sinister elements
adding to the intensity of the visual experience. Featured also is onedotzero, a company responsible for creating astonishing digital sensory arts events, and Eduardo Gomes, who uses 3D computer graphics to implement and demonstrate visual artwork.
Without borders or boundaries, Alex Chinneck creates large-scale surrealist illusions. He describes the making of playful public art, the obligation for cultural experiences to be valuable and also the advantage of controlling your art, beginning to end. With The Fashtons, we ponder photo-realism in visual projects for music and fashion and the consonance brought by two separate, yet intertwined and transmittable, artistic modes of expression.
ROOMS 16 cogitates the blurring of liminal spaces, the creation of complex art. The result is art, which breaks boundaries. Art as light and darkness, simultaneously. Art, which is faster than light itself. Art, which is superluminal.
Koen Vanmechelen - Darwin’s Dream
Interviews with artist Koen Vanmechelen, curators James Putnam and Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts
The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church
15 November - 14 December 2014
Read more about Koen Vanmechelen and our interview in the current issue ROOMS 15
After this year’s Art Basel – Miami Beach has just ended, ROOMS Magazine muses the creative processes and emotional influences of three Miami-based artists in the December print magazine. Autumn Casey, Farley Aguilar and Bhakti Baxter reflect on how their relationship with Miami has changed the way in which they think about art. Particularly in focus is the impact of light on their work and the way in which its influence on the imagination generates an artistic vision. Cogitating the origin of all things, familiar objects become unexpected sources of inspiration for artists, who are ever challenging and questioning their own subjectivity. And, while the works of contemporary artists often exist by an illusion of lighting and composition, the illusion is accepted as an ancient and indispensable artistic extrication. Yet, popular picture sharing sites such as Instagram, which allow for artistic expression and reflection from some, who do not necessarily think of themselves artists, adds a new dimension. The article considers, in dialog with Casey, Aguilar and Baxter, what this means for professional artists, who continue to find unique modes of creative manifestation in surroundings where art is becoming increasingly “common place”.
Read the interviews with Autumn Casey, Farley Aguilar and Bhakti Baxter by Heike Dempster in our new issue ROOMS 16 Superluminal
ROOMS & Sunara Begum:
Rules to be set. Rules to be broken. Visual artist Sunara Begum is in the timeless “now”.
With steventai AW14.
By Kristina Jensen
In Mark Lyken’s headspace: creating art evocative of something galactic, whilst exploring relationships between people and places and the influence of sound and visuals.
When I first discovered audio and visual artist Mark Lyken it was purely coincidental. One particularly rainy afternoon, I found myself in a London Wagamama in search of shelter and hoping to find some kind of caffeinated drink. Struggling to get my oversized umbrella under control in a room packed with people who had had the same genius idea, I spotted Lyken’s name on the Wagamama ‘art and eat’ campaign poster. Lyken’s graffuturistic art, which captures the essence of the connection between visual and musical manifestation, stood out to me as an explosion of kaleidoscopic dynamics.
When the 2007 recession hit, DIY art forms such as street art and self-produced music boomed, paving the way for Lyken’s unique mode of expression. Fuelled by heartbreak and a failed business Lyken moved to Glasgow. Switching from urban graffiti to more abstract, gallery based art he found his calling in sonic art forms. The buoyant quality of his work attracted up-and-coming, Glasgow-based Recoat Gallery, which was later instrumental in launching Lyken as an artist.
Lyken’s art, initially a recreation of bacteria and other internal life forms, resembles vibrant outer space constellations. Musically, Lyken is drawn by the melodic, monophonic effect of drone tunes. For the artist, there is no real line between the two art forms, no definitive segregation. It is hard to say which is which, as one becomes the response to the other. To Lyken, the combination of music and art is prolific as long as it is not overanalysed. He is adamant never to impose an interpretive meaning on his art; it simply “is what it is”.
Lyken has matured into more than a musical street artist, a fact which was cemented when he joined internationally renowned art house, Cryptic, earlier this year. The Terrestrial Sea, commissioned by Cryptic, will make its debut at Multiplicidade Festival in Brazil between 29 and 30 November. His award-winning film, Mirror Lands, a collaboration with filmmaker Emma Dove and Aberdeen University Ecologists, is further proof of artistic evolution. The film muses peoples’ feeling of home, using a synthesis of images and sonic elements to challenge preconceived ideas about life on the Scottish Highland Black Isle. The outcome is an exploration of the complex interactions between nature, industry and culture.
In spite of the diversity of Lyken’s work, themes of mutation, metamorphosis and renewal make up constant, recognisable components of a portfolio, which includes musical and sound pieces, film, paintings and installations. Lyken is an artist who pinpoints contrasts everywhere and whose work, full of contradiction as it is, offers something for everyone. So take the opportunity, next time you are caught in the rain; experience art in a new way – experience Mark Lyken.
By Kelly Richman
Why Laurent Chehere’s dreamy and strange photography has my head in the clouds.
Based in Paris, photographer Laurent Chehere has a diverse and peculiar oeuvre. Ranging from ordinary reportage and dramatic portraiture to surreal scenes and dreamy narratives, his work captures his curious mind and depicts undeniable Parisian influences. While I admire much of Chehere’s work, it is his “Flying Houses” series that remains my favourite.
Launched in 2007, this series explores the architecture of Paris. Rather than focusing on the city’s characteristic and picturesque petits appartements with their sloping mansard roofs and cast iron balconies, Chehere instead opts to portray ordinary buildings that humbly exist in the city. In an attempt to showcase the unseen beauty and nondescript identities of the houses, Chehere revamps and (literally) elevates the structures – including “an old erotic cinema in Pigalle, a small neighbourhood café, a decrepit hotel, as well as a pretty little house in a boring suburb” – to a surreal and unique existence.
By Ralph Barker
A story of how a dead cat took me on a journey into art and showed me what could be found in the dark corners of East London.
On a cold December day in 2012, I came home and opened my freezer to find a dead kitten inside of a Chinese takeaway box.
This was, to say the least, a bit of a shock.
Apparently, a stray cat had given birth to a litter in my garden shed and one of these had managed to get tangled in some rope and died. After calling the local cat shelter, my mother had been instructed to freeze the kitten which would then be used as bait to lure the stray back to be spayed and taken in. My mother, a little uncomfortable with all of this, decided instead she did not particularly want a kitten perched on the ice cream shelf and decided to get rid of it. Knowing a bit about taxidermy and art, I quickly saw an opportunity and arranged to meet artist Polly Morgan at her studio. I then proceeded to carry the frozen kitten, nestled between two ice packs on one of my more bizarre trips through London, to her studio in Hackney. What I encountered there was some of the most astounding artwork I had ever seen.
On entering, I was met by a beautifully stuffed robin, caught halfway through a pane of glass in her 2007 piece, Morning. On the floor in front of me, a large deer lay serenely with its head titled back slightly as if in the throes of a beautiful dream, this piece being her then unfinished 2012 work, Hide and Fight. As I was led toward ‘the freezers’, I was amazed by the sheer beauty of her work, a macabre memento morifor an audience somewhat dislocated from nature in a world increasingly swarmed upon by the buzzing interference of technology. Her (alive) pet staffy bounded up to me and started to sniff at the kitten, a lively contrast from the dead creatures surrounding him but one that proved a nice metaphor for Morgan’s work. Art is what you make it and anything can be transformed into beauty. Even in death, these animals continue to remind us of our relationship to the world around us, one that is all too often overlooked.
I won’t put any information here about Morgan’s biography or the intention of her work. I believe most of all that a work should be viewed fresh and that a viewer should take what they wish from an artist’s work before exploring into greater depth the meaning and intention behind a piece. I urge you all to have a look online and see for yourself just how powerful and beautiful something as macabre as a dead animal can be and if you ever get a chance, try to get up close to the work and really see for yourself the detail and care that has gone into crafting these outstanding sculptures.
Morgan is currently exhibiting in the Nevada Museum of Art in the Late Harvest show until January 18th2015.
By Nate JZ
The artist that has made rounds in the news has been, to my reading pleasure, one of my favourites – the eccentric Paul McCarthy. The irony and deprecation of the green “butt plug” that he recently erected on the Place Vendome did not invoke libido but quite a considerable amount of serotonin which led to the artwork and artist being savagely assaulted. No one has been coerced into giving it try on the “Tree”, the preferred euphemism, but the anger might not have been an impetuous spur to take a swing at the artist. In fact, Paul McCarthy has long been a provocative clown, who painted with food, ketchup, mayonnaise, and his own feces. Compared to his grotesque book of works, Parisians were lucky to get a stream-lined, simple in geometric shapes, a green butt plug because it really could have been worse.
Take the “Santa Claus” statue for example, for which McCarthy received a permanent spot in 2008 to display a Gnome holding up a 3 leveled butt plug with suction base in the Dutch town of Eendrachtsplein. It was never met with malicious attacks like “Tree” but polite invitations for it to relocate. How the butt plugs were received revealed more about its audience and their capacity to tolerate than how the artist was assertive. The Parisians appeared to be a bit more anal on what constitute contemporary art it seems.
The Brits however as one would expect love McCarthy. The Phallic Pinocchio, aka, Blockhead was a subversive interpretation of a Disney Character that stood outside Tate Modern for a solid 5 months. As a Guardian journalist has noted that “Britain is muffled by a middle-class, bland consensus of approval” for modern art, we have lost our rights to be offended. The over exposure of manipulations of iconographies and the tiresome gimmicks of blending the sacred and the profane have made us into products of lethargy.
Coming back to the artist himself, I’ve always appreciated the eccentric behaviours of them regardless of what critics think of their art as from formal aspects or maybe I’ve just given up on resolving the problem of not knowing what my own taste is. But for a guy like McCarthy who once threw himself around a ketchup spattered classroom until dazed and injured to eventually throw up and shove a Barbie doll into his rectum, just like how Damien Hirst put out a cigarette on his penis during an interview, that makes me like them.
By Tatyana Wolfman
Phillips Design Studio has no (signature) style; rather, it seeks out the inner creativity of those they work for. With their own team of craftsmen, the firm is able to reflect the personality of their client’s with luxury bespoke interiors. Although the interior design studio is just over a year old, their portfolio reads like a prestigious old timer who has seen a few rooms. The firm is able to perform a number of jobs: design and project management for high-end projects, full-property renovations and extensions, and high specification refurbishments. The firm is based in London and draws inspiration from both the historic and modern aspects of the city. At the head of this innovative madness is award-winning designer Tom Phillips. His design philosophy is that custom-made allows for exacting control over every detail, which helps him provide a meticulous service from the commencement of a project to completion.
ROOMS: What do you believe is the most important room in a house?
Phillips Design Studio: The kitchen: this is the heart of the home and has to function uniquely to every user.
What is your team inspired by?
All forms of design & architecture, we aim to make our clients vision a reality and not force our own design style on our clients. Everyone has a style whether they really know it or not! In our creative sessions, we try to be empathetic with the client and extrapolate their secret vision. After all, they are going to be living there not us. This has led to a very unique and diverse portfolio for Phillips Design Studio.
Can you tell us a bit about your team’s process in creating a space?
We strongly advise by the old statement of ‘form follows function’. The space has to operate as our clients intend to use it. Once we have created this operational space, we then begin to create the look and feel.
What are your design goals?
We have just launched our new range of contemporary furniture at the London Design Festival 2014 to great acclaim. We would love our range to become a classic icon in British design.
We see a lot of earthy tones and materials in your work. On the flip side, a lot of your projects are very conceptually urban. Do both the city and nature inform your work?
Our projects are all very diverse. We use our client’s inner designer as a platform to be creative. Working with this inspiration and surrounding space, we endeavour to make a harmonious scheme meaning no repetition or stagnation in our work. Each project is as individual as the client and the space we are fronted with.
How does the city specifically inspire your work?
London is my favorite city in the word both in its historical nature and its modernity. We could be working in a Georgian townhouse one day and a modern apartment the very next. The possibilities are without boundaries. Our clients and their budgets are the only restrictions. Inspiration is everywhere.
Is refurbishing or completely remaking a space a harder task?
I would say refurbishing a space! When refurbishing, we always have restrictions whether that be structural or legal. These ultimately lead to compromise.
You create beautiful interiors. What are some of the challenges or things to keep in mind while balancing aesthetic with effective living space?
Be sympathetic to the structure and surrounding you are working within.
A lot of your spaces are quite contemporary. Are you ever worried that trendiness gives some of your work an expiration date?
The majority of my work is for clients, who purely want their space to reflect their personality. In this case, expiration dates are not an issue. In more moderate projects, (you might not see in my portfolio) we do strongly consider a more global aesthetic appeal and potential resale. This is a question we ask our clients in the very first consultation.
Most of your work is quite clean. Your project, Tower Bridge ‘Shad Thames Refurbishment, however, is quite decorative and elaborate. Can you tell as a bit about this work?
This project was achieved in collaboration with David Carter, an internationally celebrated interior designer. David created the scheme, look, feel, and material selection for the project. We assisted David to achieve his vision. We designed and manufactured all the bespoke furniture and technical detailing of the project as well as the construction and site management.
Which project represents your firm’s style and values most?
I would have to say the Shoreditch Loft. Our client, Kate, was and still is so overwhelmed and comfortable with the space and scheme we created for her. It really is a testament to what our ethos is. The space truly reflects her as an individual and that for me is what my company is all about.
You have your own team of craftsman?
We have a team of cabinetmakers based in a fully kitted out modern 10,000 sq ft workshop in Tottenham. This is where we manufacture all our bespoke furniture. We also have a finishing spray shop so we can apply any colour or finish to our client’s furniture should we desire. This is where we also manufacture the LUNA range.
It gives us the ability to stretch creative boundaries. When you have a skilled in-house workshop, the design possibilities are endless because there is joined up thinking. I haven’t yet managed to design some furniture my team cannot manage!
Given that a lot of your furniture is bespoke, was creating your furniture line LUNA the natural next step?
Yes, I think this was a natural move forward. We have done so many beautiful pieces in the past that will never be recreated and are purely for the pleasure of their owner. We thought we would try something more universal that reflected us as a company and the times we are in.
Is control over every detail of a project an important part of your practice?
This is one of the most important parts of our work. If the detail isn’t exact it reflects badly on the entire design. The devil is in the detail as they say.
What is your dream interior design job?
Tough one! I’m open to most jobs that have a good scope and I can get my teeth into. I suppose a large full refurbishment with a strong budget and full creative license is what all designers are looking to land. Fortunately, this is what I seem to get offered, so I’m quite content with that.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
We are just about to complete a large full refurbishment in a beautiful converted Wharf building in Wapping. This has been my labour of love for 12 months. Now, we are nearing completion on site. It is looking amazing and I can’t wait to see it finished. Due to this, we have just been contracted to renovate a similar apartment in the building, which will be underway in 2015. We also have a number of other projects well on the move!
By Kelly Richman
In light of the prevailing and increasingly apparent presence of new technologies in contemporary art, many artists strive to incorporate this high-tech trend into their work. While such a cutting edge approach to art remains a new – and often unfamiliar – domain, to engineer and artist Memo Akten, it is inherent to his work.
Born in Istanbul and based in London, Memo Akten has always been in tune with technology and electronics. Growing up, he experimented with programming on 8-bit computers, beginning his utilization of “tools of science as a lens to the world.” This early interest in technology has resulted in an extraordinary body of work executed in an extremely wide range of mediums, including “images, videos, sound, light, digital sculptures, dance, large scale installations, performances, software and online works”. Recently, Akten has unveiled three exciting pieces: Equilibrium, an interactive touch-screen video installation, Waves, a high-definition video, and, most recently, Simple Harmonic Motion #11, an installation of moving spotlights at Blenheim Palace.
Inspired by an expedition in Madagascar, Equilibrium demonstrates the fragile nature of the environment.
A common motif in much of Akten’s work, Equilibrium explores the relationship between balance and chaos. Through a touch screen, Akten invites the viewer to interact with the piece and observe firsthand how delicate and vulnerable ecosystems are to disruption.
Similarly, Waves, a “data dramatisation of complex ocean simulations”, artistically portrays balance in nature. This time, Akten employs the ocean as his muse, as he is fascinated by the dialogue between its juxtaposing characteristics: “mighty yet delicate; calming yet terrifying; graceful yet violent; a symbol of fear, danger and death as well as hope, freedom and life”. Like Equilibrium, Waves provides a visual representation of an abstract, impalpable concept.
Finally, having made its debut on October 13, 2014, Simple Harmonic Motion #11 is Akten’s newest artistic endeavor. Representing the cultural diversity of Istanbul, the Simple Harmonic Motion series again presents the artist’s innate fascination with the balance motif. This time, he is particularly interested in the “collision of cultures and intertwined opposites”. Ever enthralled by the dialogue between science and art, Akten harnesses his engineering background with Simple Harmonic Motion #11, as, in the piece, rhythmic sound and footage of synchronized spotlights are “driven by the same mathematical principles and algorithm: a complex signal, broken down into its basic elements operating at different frequencies”. Like Equilibrium, and Waves, Simple Harmonic Motion #11 demonstrates the artistic side of technology and, ultimately, presents a beautiful and deeply complex aesthetic experience.
Read the full interview with Memo Akten by Linh Nguyen in our current issue ROOMS 15 Breakable
By Ralph Barker
Photography that creates such an immediate impression on the viewer is hard to come by, but Osborne Macharia’s work delves deep into our socially constructed views and often uses our own prejudices and fears to make us think about subjects in a new way, highlighting that which we do not particularly want to see brought into the light. With simple but commanding imagery, the focus is drawn to the central figure, using powerful emotion to convey the central message in each piece. We had the chance to catch up with Macharia after featuring his work in our latest issue.
ROOMS: Your work is very striking, and the viewer is often presented with an image that could be considered uncomfortable. How do you think that the element of shock fits into what you do?
Osborne Macharia: To be honest, I wouldn’t say that there is an element of shock but rather an introduction into reality, things as I see them on the ground. It’s authentic beauty seen through my eyes. Maybe the element of surprise comes in when I get to see the final result. It’s nowhere what I had envisioned in the first place
You use a lot of tribal imagery in your work. Do you think that this is important in what you try to express? I feel that, in some ways, the idea of a tribal ethos works quite well as a metaphor for the world of advertising and photography.
Ideally, it should be a metaphor for the world of advertising and commercial photography. This is one aspect of my work that I have been trying to push this entire year. Our industry in particular in Africa/Kenya is still conservative and change takes time but eventually this is what I look forward to.
Tell us a bit more about your architectural background, and how that has helped to shape the way you work now.
This is the funny part. Many of my classmates in Architecture school say they see architectural elements and principles in my work, yet I don’t. Maybe it’s subconsciously. One thing I know for sure is I like symmetry in my work and look for symmetrical patterns when compositing or lighting. The work ethics of long late nights and ‘unrealistic’ timelines throughout campus helps me a lot out here.
The use of emotion, particularly fear, which your subjects express in your photography, is something I feel is very powerful. It seems to me that the subjects are often trying to ‘break free’ from something. What are your thoughts on this?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not really fear but realism. It’s your ordinary folk in their ordinary environment and circumstances just expressed in a different vision. True there is a lot of emotion I try to bring out and this best comes out when you don’t alter a thing. All I add is camera and lights to an already existing story
The focus on Africa is really interesting in terms of both subject matter and landscape. Why do you feel it important to capture the country the way you do?
That’s an interesting question. When we grew up all the images we were exposed to were photographs from European, Asian or American photographers from their expeditions in Africa. I guess a standard way of seeing things was already engraved in our minds by the time we were conscious of what photography is all about. When you do sit down and see things from your day-to-day experience, short stories, poetry and your day-to-day drama that’s when you realize there is a totally different side to what we see and how the world perceives us. That’s what drove me into capturing a different side of Africa.
Would it be fair to say that you are more of a storyteller than an artist, or do you believe the two are inextricably linked together?
Both go hand in hand. It’s the story that drives the artist in me.
Beauty and the ageing process are two things that seem to keep cropping up in your work. Can you tell us why you choose to use these as recurring motifs throughout your work?
Let me say it’s been my subject matter for this year. I seem to have been fascinated a lot by the elderly. Next year might be something different, who knows.
The focus that you put on the human body really fascinates me. You have a way of making the body seem more of an architectural object than a human one. Do you think that architecture and the human body can sometimes be blended in your art?
Lol…. maybe it’s the subconscious taking over. The part I spoke about symmetry could actually be what people tend to see. All I see is a well composed image.
How important do you think the use of colour is in your work? Do you prefer shooting in colour or black and white?
There is a series I am working on that’s entirely in black and white and I believe the overall outcome will be fascinating. Colour tends to be a key part of my work. The fusion of cool and warm colours is fascinating; making them fuse subtly yet meticulously is the tricky part.
Can you tell us about the use of metaphor in your work. How important do you feel it is to get a message across in art?
I guess every viewer perceives my work in different ways. Some may see a deeper message while I will simply see art. At the end of the day as long as its art that’s appreciated, I’m happy
To what extent do you believe that photography and advertising can be used as a platform for social change?
I strongly believe that advertising and photography should be a tool for social change. We just finished shooting a calendar for a prominent mobile communications provider in Kenya where we had to travel around parts of the country shooting the ‘unexpected’. Some of the subjects where seeing their own photographs for the first time on their lives and the glow and joy in their faces was priceless.
Is there any guidance you would like to give all of the storytellers out there?
Just tell your story. The world is ready to hear something new, positive and uplifting.
Taken from our issue ROOMS 15
Bloomberg Aspirations, A Contemporary New Generation
By Alice Hughes
Alice Hartely’s recasting of larger-than-life urban billboards conjure and command attention unlike their real-life counterparts. We tend to get lost in the scattered void of advertisements, drawing us in with their scripted amalgamations of image and text. Yet Hartely’s ingenious re-contextualisation of meaning makes your mind work in slow motion. Any artist with the ability to so in a culture of such immediacy and pre-formed expectation, has the potential to go far in the contemporary art scene.
When confronted with Hartely’s superimposition of a flux-like, colour patchwork background with its fore image of slanted black text, you may summon back the silences and gaps which make storytelling brilliant, or the spaces between musical notes which make a composition whole. In recharging our expectations and ready-made senses, her paternal words We’re All Very Disappointed make us believe we are a child again. And perhaps this is the state we need to return to – a sentiment out of line with the mechanics of time. In this pure effervesce prior to indoctrination and socialisation, we are always eager to question and wonder over every language game which confronts us.
In Hartley’s frenetic work there is a sense of time running out, whilst the flattening contrast simultaneously evokes the sensation of clocks standing still. The outsized personal yet distant meanings remind us that subjectivity may be individual to an extent, but its social consequence is ultimately collective. Interestingly, it seems Hartley’s comments regarding her mono screen printing practice, can be channelled into the way we orientate our bodies and selves through a highly political culture: ‘I’m learning how important execution is, it’s good to be loud and brash but only if it’s relevant. Some things need space and minimal structure’.
We’re All Very Disappointed was selected this year by New Contemporaries, the leading UK organisation supporting emerging artists from British Art Schools. This organisation provides a vital platform for the work of young artists to be shown, thus nurturing a new generation of pioneering artists. Hartley’s work We’re All Very Disappointed will be pasted onto a four metre-high wall as visitors enter the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition at World Museum in Liverpool until 26 October 2014. The show then moves to ICA, London, between 26 November 2014 and 25 January 2015. You must go and discover the future of artistic talent.
By Jesc Bunyard
Famed conceptual artist Koen Vanmechelen brings his unique style of art to London this autumn in his first UK solo show.
Köen Vanmechelen is perhaps best known for his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), in which he aims to interbreed all types of chicken. Köen Vanmechelen uses CCP as an inspirational springboard for his latest show situated in the winding tunnels of the Crypt Gallery at St Pancras Church. Vanmechelen will present works in a range of media including painting, performance and video. Rather intriguingly the artist’s website also mentions “a living jungle and a miniature lake”. These works will reflect on Vanmechelen’s findings as well as examining the legacy and work of Charles Darwin.
Vanmechlen uses notions of the chicken and the egg and the CCP for examining the wider issue of the human impact on animals, evolution and sustainability. He is also known for collaborating with experts in different fields such as sociology, medicine, genetics and anthropology. Any work that Vanmechelen produces is destined to make you think.
Curated by Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts and James Putnam, this show promises to be fascinating and thought provoking.
By Jesc Bunyard
After the publication of each new issue as I’m sure you’re aware, each writer is asked to pick their favourite article or artist. I’ve written quite a number of these now, and each previous time I’ve tended to be attracted towards the longer features, often articles which discuss theories close to my own practice.
This time I was drawn to the section which focused on Rupert Vandervell’s photographic practice. This section had very little words, just a short paragraph written by the artist. The content was focused on Vandervell’s glorious photographs. Vandervell’s photographs are incredibly focused, with a intense cinematic feel to them. The photographs place a solitary figure amidst a solid mass of urban architecture. This figure stands alone, a rare occurrence in our modern world, perhaps a commentary on our society and urban landscape today. For me they conjure up stills from a film, perhaps a spy or thriller film, which are two of my favourite film genres. In fact, as I write this All The Presidents Men, one of my favourite films, is playing in the background. Often the directors and cinematographers in these film genres use the camera to create tension and a heightened sense of drama. Vandervell’s photographs create a similar effect. I could get lost in these images, wondering where the figure is going? Where has he been? What thrilling, dark, tangled mess has he got himself into?
With Vandervell I feel myself being drawn into a world of tense looks and hushed whispers.
By Jack Wynn
Hull born artist Lara Jensen has leant her creative hand as the cover artist for ROOMS 15.
I see fine art, costume and fashion all as means of expression. The sort of fashion that I make comes from an artist’s view of ‘making’. I wanted to be a fine artist because you got to do what you wanted all the time. At University they taught us that anything you say is part of your artistic practice. I see fashion as my art practice. Most of the fashion that I make isn’t for regular consumption. At the moment, I like garments on a body because there is nothing you can relate to more than a person. They’re quite a good canvas as a mode of expression and getting you to think something or getting you to relate to something. I kind of flutter between my work being fashion or art.
By Suzanne Zhang
Mark Neville’s upcoming exhibition ‘London/Pittsburgh’ opens its doors in November at the Alan Cristea Gallery in London.
Neville’s new exhibition, ‘London/Pittsburgh’, is about to open its doors in November at the Alan Cristea Gallery, in London. His work is one that places itself at the intersection of art and documentary. Using a wide range of mediums to advance social commentary, his lens-based practice is a daring exploration of what it means to be human on a socio-political level.
“I don’t think it’s enough to just put photographs on a wall in a commercial space, I like to see work that goes beyond the gallery walls and impacts on issues and asks questions on social documentary practice. One of the ways in which I concoct these questions is by looking at particular communities – questions will arise from their experience.”
London/Pittsburgh is a collective of his works that bring together two projects: Here is London (2012) and Braddock/Sewickley (2012), respectively shedding a light on the daily struggles of British and American communities. The running theme is one of race, class, and how a camera can cast an unflinching glance on truths that remain so often uncomfortable. Often taken in manner of a ‘fly on the wall’, Neville’s photographs are a powerful rendition of communities welcoming him into their world, thus permitting a gaze that is often raw but always honest.
The exhibition is set to be an investigation of how film and photography can induce change in the world, and is done so by pairing thirteen works side-by-side. Known for his frequent subversion of the institutionalised gaze, Neville’s practice raises issues on political thought and activism, and sets his photographs within a new, contemporary framework that demands attention from its public.
Nominated in 2012 for a Pulitzer Prize for a commission by the New York Times Magazine, Neville is now about to show some of his most honest, gritty and powerful work at the Alan Cristea Gallery.
London/Pittsburgh opens on the 20th November 2014 and runs until the 24th January 2015 at the Alan Cristea Gallery in London.
Mr Schade fills in the blank with his unmistakable interwoven laces.
Hidden away in our magazine, we have given you an empty page to do whatever you want. Of course, some of you may not want to ruin your copy. Or you don’t have one. No matter. Any piece of paper will do. All we want to see is your art. Let your imagination run wild. Everything is relevant. Do you want to see your work on our website? Start creating! Do you want to see it in our magazine? Start now!
Fill in your _blank and send it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please, include your Instagram and Twitter names.
We look forward to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Posted by Joshua Bradwell
A few months ago we announced the launch of a new, reader-sourced project titled ‘_blank.’ We told you to look out for the blank page in the magazine and do absolutely anything you wanted to do within it. We wanted you to express yourself in whatever way you saw fit, to draw the most outrageous thing that your imagination told you, to get crazy with your creativity and show us the results.
Since the last issue we have had a flood of absolutely incredible submissions, and you have all wowed us with the sheer level of creativity. In the run up to our very exciting new issue, we wanted to share a collection of those pieces with the world. Our very first submission comes from Benjamin Murphy, a London-based electrical tape artist.
Having previously worked on the facades of buildings, we were thrilled that Benjamin scaled his work down and Themes of fragility, despair, chaos, vanity, and vice are all themes within Benjamin’s works, and they are certainly prevalent within his _blank submission.
We look forward to seeing yours, _blank
By Kelly Richman
Taken from our current issue ROOMS 15 Breakable
Ash Thorp is, undeniably, a man of many talents. As an artist, illustrator, graphic designer, creative director, and, according to his Twitter bio, a “fan of all things COOOOOL,” his success and charismatic attitude are no surprise. With a wealth of experience and an extremely exciting resume—who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes and The Walking Dead?—Ash has made a name for himself in the realm of various media, including feature films, commercial enterprises, and print. In this interview, we chat with Ash about his creative background. Namely, we unravel the ways in which his childhood experiences—which he classifies as “the muse of it all”—have influenced and inspired his successful, well-deserved career.
I’ve found that I am most interested in your artistic background, so rather than focusing on any specific projects or your technical processes, I’d like to talk to you more about your creative background.
So, first of all, I’ve noticed that you’re often described as an “artist, illustrator, and graphic designer.” I’m wondering if, to you, there is an inherent difference between art and design, and art and illustration.
For me, personally, I try not to put barriers up when it comes to being creative. I look at each to be different in their own way, but, when I create, I see them all the same. That’s my approach, at least. I don’t like to categorise. I find that the best things are created through cross-pollination. I think otherwise it’s just people trying to sort everything out so they can explain and teach them. And, I get it, I get why people do that, but I don’t personally believe in it when I create.
I’M TRYING TO GET BACK TO THAT CHILD SELF. THAT’S THE MUSE OF IT ALL. THAT’S THE INSPIRATION, THE WONDER, THE CURIOSITY.
Clearly, your career is very multifaceted. Can you tell me about your childhood and any early experiences with art that led up to where you are now?
My mom is a vagabond; we moved around a lot. I experienced a lot of travelling, and my mom is also a really talented artist. So, I was always involved in art one way or another, and we were pretty poor so I don’t really have anything besides our relationship. My mom and I are really close. I have an older brother too, and he drew a lot. But we didn’t have Nintendos and stuff—I grew up in Hawaii, so it was all about your imagination and going outside and I would just draw a lot. So, creativity was really encouraged, and my mom understood what it was to be creative, so it was always reinforced and everybody was really positive about me doing art; it kind of built upon itself really. I was super lucky. We didn’t have a lot of material stuff but what we didn’t have, we made up for in love and strong bonds in our relationships.
And that ultimately gets you further anyway.
I would think so. It’s challenging because I didn’t come from wealth so I have to earn everything, and it takes a lot of work every day to put in the time and fulfil these different destinations, but you can’t put a price on a bond with your parents.
And you have a daughter, right? So has this influenced your relationship with her? Both in terms of raising her in general and presenting art to her in any way?
Yeah, it’s a life-changing thing. When I first started dating my wife, Monica, she had already had her; she was three years old. So, I kind of had an instant family and I agreed to take on the responsibility. I think it changed me internally instantly so that’s when I really started stepping things up and taking my art seriously and that’s when I started to commit myself 100%. As far as getting her into art, I don’t force anything on her because I’d rather art come naturally to her. She definitely enjoys it, and we spend some time here and there drawing and stuff. She’s really into dance, so there’s not a lot of time in the day to sit down and draw, unfortunately. But, there’s definitely an interest there. She sees me doing it and she understands that I help support the household with it.
Definitely. So, she’s into dance, and I am curious if, aside from film, you were influenced by any other platforms, like books or illustrations or anything along that route?
Everything really. I remember sitting and reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and blasting Metallica and Led Zeppelin. I mean, that’s just a little sliver of influence. I try to be like a sponge. I let everything influence me. I’ve been asked what inspires me now and I think it changes every week, based on the person, the film, the book that I’m reading, whatever it is. I try to take it all in, take the bits that I like, and then leave the rest and keep going.
I understand you’re swamped with deadlines and have a lot going on. Given your background, do you ever find yourself reverting back to the ways you approached art as a child?
That’s really funny that you bring that up, because I’m really trying to revert back to being a kid again. There were maybe 3-4 years of really intense “adult” work when I had to set up my career and make a name for myself and I feel that that somewhat solidified it enough for me to feel comfortable. So, what I’m doing now is trying to cut my time up to go back to that playful child self. And that’s what the whole Lost Boy thing and all these silly adolescent drawings are really, deep down, about; they’re a culmination of all these funny things that I enjoy. I’ve been trying to find that young, youthful, fun self because that’s the spirit of it all; that’s the person that got me here in the first place and I lost track of that person through the hard work of setting up a career and building a family. But I never want to lose that person, because it’s my core and I felt it slipping a little bit during some of the time. It’s challenging, you know, as an artist to wear all the different hats. Doing art for a living is like prostitution in a way—like mental prostitution. And that’s a really gross way of putting it, and I try to class it up, but deep down that’s what I feel like. If I could just sit around and draw what I want to draw all day—which I’m trying to do—that would be the life. And I’m trying slowly every day to put at least an hour or two toward that goal. It’s going to take a little bit longer, but you just gotta be patient.
I’m trying to get back to that child self. That’s the muse of it all. That’s the inspiration, the wonder, the curiosity. Those are all very important ingredients to being creative. They keep you fresh.
Art exists because life somehow isn’t enough, because somehow there is more out there for us, because somehow the great is always behind a wall that seems so high at the time, but quickly dissolves into foam the moment we decide to look over it. In a society that is ever-changing at an incredible speed and where everything is replaced by the new and the even more new, what role does Art get to play? How do we incorporate Art into our lives and use it as an effective tool to challenge our personal, social or political aims?
By Suzanne Zhang
When something is beautiful, it is very easily consumed and it shouldn’t be about readily consuming. It should be about pausing and relooking.
– Lara Jensen, the London based designer and artist takes over the main stage and opens our new issue filled with stories of life adventures, flourishing bravery and conquered barricades.
Giving a voice to our ever growing collection of cutting-edge artists and creatives we bring you in this issue: exclusive interview with Another Earth‘s directing prodigy Mike Cahill who talks to us about his new film I Origins. What is it like to write the dialogue for the most famous geeks in the world? We meet The Big Bang Theory writer Eric Kaplan. Influential musician and now music video director, Douglas Hart from The Jesus and Mary Chain on the dependent music industry. Paper Rain founder Stephan Wembacher on creative entrepreneurial. Bloomberg Aspirations, we talk to Director Kirsty Ogg and the New Contemporaries. The Technê Revolution, when Science and Technology become Art, feat Liam Young, Koen Vanmechelen and Memo Akten. Also in this issue Mark Neville, Connie Lim, Charlotte Kingsnorth, Kate Simko and many more!
Introducing Berlin-based visual artist A N F, who after studying interaction deigns and media arts at the Berlin University of Arts Studies, has made a name for himself in the field of digital art. Combining the aesthetics of digital design with questions of social science he investigates the influence of automation on our lives and the consequence for contemporary art. We met with A N F to talk about the inspiration and creative processes behind some of his more recent projects and as well as what exactly is the meaning of it all.
There will always be artists whose focal point is on the interpretive meaning of a piece, and that make very strong art. But for me it really remains about the underlying system and what that expresses and what that can do. It may not always create pretty art, but the resulting expression is very intriguing, creatively, and that is what inspires me to keep going. To keep pushing the boundaries of what is physically possible.
Read the full interview by Kristina Jensen in our new issue ROOMS 16 Superluminal